Monday, April 29, 2013

Is The DC Blogging Community Dead?

I'm a blogger between two cities. I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, so I often write about Pittsburgh sports. I have lived in Northern Virginia for more than a decade, so I often write about my experiences living in the Washington DC area. Within the past year, I was invited to join the Pittsburgh Bloggers group, I participated in a fantasy football league consisting of Pittsburgh Bloggers and I was part of the Spring 2013 Pittsburgh Guest Blogger event where 30-40 Pittsburgh Bloggers wrote a guest post on another blog. Although I don't live in Pittsburgh anymore, the group has been extremely welcoming, so it's a little disappointing when I can't participate in events for Pittsburgh Bloggers including a recent TweetUp or attend the Pittsburgh Opera Bloggers Night.

Meanwhile, I don't see any of this happening in DC for bloggers. I attended a DC Bloggers Happy Hour almost five years ago and Lacochran organized a group of bloggers to run a 5K about three years ago. Please note the phrases "years ago" from the last sentence. The Washington Post had a local blog directory, but that doesn't seem to exist anymore. While I like DC Blogs (even though my posts don't appear on the live feed until hours later and then get lost in the middle of the page) to highlight some of the best blog posts and as a blog directory, I don't see any activities or camaraderie among DC Bloggers.

Are blogs played out in DC where they aren't in Pittsburgh? Perhaps the problem is that DC is too spread out. At this point, it is unlikely that I would attend a DC Happy Hour because I'm old(ish) and want to see my family after a long day and commute home. (Although I would jump at the opportunity to get free tickets to a DC Bloggers Theater Night!) However, a Northern Virginia Happy Hour in Fairfax, Vienna, Chantilly or Reston could be a possibility.

So is there still a DC Bloggers community that I just don't know exists or is there little to no DC bloggers community anymore?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Xbox Live Promotion & Giveaway

This weekend (April 25th through April 28th), Xbox LIVE members in the US and Canada will get free access to some of the most popular sports apps on the service including ESPN, UFC, MLB.TV, NBA Game Time & NHL Game Center. Therefore, you can get free live coverage of the NFL Draft on ESPN, more than 50 live MLB games and 7 UFC Fight Story fights. In addition, enjoy highlights, recaps, and clips from the best of the NHL as teams jockey for position leading into the playoffs, and catch up on highlights and clips from the NBA Playoffs.

I have an Xbox (not Xbox 360, the old-fashioned Xbox), and I know nothing about Xbox Live. However, as a sports fan, I think this is a good deal. Plus, as a special bonus, I'm giving away one free month of Xbox Live Gold Membership to two readers (or possibly two months of Xbox Live for one reader).

To enter, all you need to do is provide a comment in the comments section below. If you need a topic, how about this? Baseball players often have music played for them before their at-bat. What song would you choose as your walk-up music? I would probably go with It Takes Two by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock.

Please submit your comment by Friday, 4/26 at 9:00 PM. One entry per person. I will choose the winners (or winner) using

For more information on what’s unlocked during the Big Sports Weekend, visit the Xbox website.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2013 Hockey Road Trip

Thanks to the NHL lockout and some personal events the past few months, the 2013 Hockey Road Trip didn’t occur until this past weekend and consisted of only one game this year: the New Jersey Devils vs. the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Although the hockey road trip of previous years took us to Long Island and New Jersey, I had never attended a game at MSG. I was obviously very excited about this trip to "The World’s Most Famous Arena" due to all of the events that occurred at the historic building. What I didn’t realize is that this is the fourth version of MSG, opened in 1968 and was recently renovated. Yes, it’s the oldest building in the NHL, but it’s not as old as I thought it was. Anyway, unlike most other arena I’ve attended, there’s not really a main area. There are multiple entrances and then you have to walk up stairs to get to each concourse. The concourses aren’t very wide (see old arena) and consists of simply your garden variety food, drink and merchandise stands. Of course, one of the stands had corned beef sandwiches. I didn’t have one, but they had CORNED BEEF SANDWICHES! You just don’t get that in Ottawa!

We’re turning this into a notes column.

- John Amirante, he of the luscious hair and voice, gave a rousing rendition of the National Anthem.

- I bought a Yuengling for $10.25. I other news, I recently bought a 12-pack of Yuengling at the grocery store for less than $10.

- In other beer news, there were no beer men at MSG. That’s a travesty!

- There was a taped piece during a break where three fans were asked to identify the most underrated Rangers players in team history. One guy answered goalie Mike Richter. Richter was the starting goalie on a Stanley Cup winning team, a 3-time All-Star and has his number retired by the team. To paraphrase The Princess Bride, I do not think underrated means what he thinks it means.

- Let’s play Jeopardy. The category: Stars of NBC shows that are about to get cancelled who attended the Rangers-Devils game.
For $200, this Smash actress previously appeared on Will & Grace.

For $400, this former Arrested Development and Up All Night actor got a nice cheer but he’s really a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. (When he attends a Rangers-Leafs game, does he wear a Leafs jersey and get booed?)

There’s a guy named Dancing Larry (or as the guy behind me called him, Homo Larry) that apparently dances to Black Box’s Strike It Up at every home game. My favorite part of his routine was completely unplanned. A guy wanted to get on the scoreboard, so he stepped between the camera and in front of Larry to wave hello. Dancing Larry was pissed. This is his 45 seconds, pal. Anyway, here’s a video of Dancing Larry from a few years ago.

Denis Potvin is a member of the NHL Hall of Fame thanks to his long career as a defenseman with the New York Islanders which included 4 Stanley Cups. Potvin retired in 1988 or 25 years ago. The Rangers still hate him, and share this whistle/chant multiple times per game.

I have mixed feelings about this. First, I appreciate the history in that fans have now shared the Potvin Sucks chant for multiple generations. Conversely, the guy retired 25 years ago. Let it go particularly if you’re playing a team that’s not the Islanders.

Some notes about the game. The Devils were playing for their playoff lives and came out flat. Ryan Callahan, who had a monster game with two goals, scored his first goal for the Rangers within the first minute.

- Of the 18 games, we’ve seen on the hockey road trip, this is the first where the bench received an unsportsmanlike conduct and the coach got ejected.

- The game was televised on NBC, so Pierre McGuire was located “Inside The Glass.” For something different, I would have loved to have heard what he said based on what the benches yelled to the referee.

- During a commercial break, MSG played Neil Diamond's Sweet Caroline and showed a woman wearing a Boston Bruins jersey while waving an American flag. The place went crazy.

Actually, these stories can tell you all about the game in which the Rangers defeated the Devils 4-1.

- Rangers Report Blog (this recap is really good)
- In Lou We Trust
- SNY Devils
- New York Daily News
- ESPN’s game recap.
- ESPN's excellent Katie Strang (Rapid Reaction, Rangers Exact Revenge & Devils coach Pete DeBoer's ejection)

Overall, I’m not sure what to make of Rangers fans. There were a ton of Rangers jerseys which is always a plus. In addition, the goal cheer is pretty cool.

However, the loudest cheers/chants were against New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur (“Mar-ty, Mar-ty) and the Devils themselves (“Season’s Over”). Again, I’m okay with both of these, but there didn’t seem to be many positive cheers (only occasional “Let’s Go Rangers” chants). There’s some arrogance among Rangers fans, but since the team was in 8th place prior to this game and hasn’t done much in the playoffs since the 1994 Stanley Cup win, I’m not sure why. There was some talk from the guys behind me about the Rangers season and how hopeful they were that the team was finally getting it together.

Basically, I’ve decided that it would be fun to see the Penguins defeat the Rangers 4-0 or 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs.

Friday, April 19, 2013

2013 Pittsburgh Steelers Schedule

The NFL released the full 2013 schedule Thursday evening. Although we already knew the Pittsburgh Steelers' opponents and game locations, we now know the exact dates and times of each game.

Depending on the possibility of flex scheduling during the end of the season, the Steelers have four nationally televised games: a Monday night game at Cincinnati (9/16); Sunday night games against Chicago (9/22) and the Bengals (12/15); and Thanksgiving evening/2nd night of Hanukkah at Baltimore (11/28). The 11/3 game at New England and 12/22 game at Green Bay (that's going to be cold!) could also turn into the primary games on CBS. Plus, living in DC, the 10/20 game against Baltimore will almost definitely be aired locally. Therefore, it's time for the second annual debate on whether I should keep DirecTV's Sunday Ticket.

Last year, it seemed like about 10 Steelers games aired in the Washington DC market. While I don't think there will be that many games shown in DC this year, based on the list above, 8 or 9 games is a distinct possibility. I think the short answer is that I'm not sure I'm willing to pay $200 for Sunday Ticket this season. For $100, I will.

P.S. Can the NFL please schedule the Steelers to play one game in Florida annually? It's almost a certainty that I can attend those games, but the only game against a Florida team this year is against Miami in Pittsburgh.

P.P.S. (or is it P.S.S.?) Assuming someone pays for the hotel and flight, I'm happy to cover the Steelers-Vikings game in London for any publication or website.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kripke Vs. Slash

I'm sure that many famous people read this blog. While I can't prove that President Obama, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, David Cameron or Andrew McCutchen read Sean's Ramblings, they probably do. With that written, it's already documented that former Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kordell Stewart read this blog. Now, I have proof that Big Bang Theory actor John Ross Bowie read Sean's Ramblings.

So just for fun, of these two, who is the most famous person to admit to reading Sean's Ramblings?

Kordell Stewart

- 11-year NFL career
- 2001 Pro Bowl QB
- Formerly married to a Real Housewife of Atlanta
- Co-host of Atlanta radio station 92.9 The Game's Gametime with Dukes, Slash & Rachel
- University of Colorado graduate and part of one of the most memorable plays in college football history

John Ross Bowie

- Plays Barry Kripke on The Big Bang Theory, the top-rated American comedy and the most-watched entertainment television show in Canada
- Member of Naked Babies sketch comedy troupe.
- Appeared in The League, Happy Endings, Bones, Childrens Hospital, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Family Guy, Monk, Heroes and Arrested Development.
- Has a Tumblr Page
- Ithaca College graduate

So who is more famous: Kordell Stewart or John Ross Bowie? More importantly, will either or both of these individuals allow me to interview them for a future blog post?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Thoughts and prayers to the people of Boston. I've been there several times, including for the 2010 hockey road trip and love the city and its history.

P.S. I still hope the Penguins defeat the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals later this spring.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Splash: A Review

After listening to my son scream in his crib for about 15 minutes on Saturday afternoon, it was apparent that a nap wasn't going to happen. Therefore, I took him out and went into a different room where many of his toys and books are located. We read several books, but then I noticed that my son's eyes were starting to close. I knew carrying him back upstairs to his crib and him staying asleep was unlikely, so I picked him up, sat on the couch and let him fall asleep on me. Unfortunately, I was so eager to make sure he fell asleep, I didn't make myself aware of the surroundings. The computer was too far away, and even though the remote was on the couch, I wouldn't be able to change channels since the DirecTV box was behind the sliding cabinet door (kids books are on one side; the TV box and DVD player are on the other). So I turned on the TV and hoped for the best. The result:

No, this Splash on ABC.

I was on the swimming and diving team for one year in high school. I was terrible and learned that diving is particularly difficult. Therefore, I have a lot of respect for anyone who attempts to dive, even if they are B or C-list celebrities. So if you haven't heard of Splash, this is a diving competition show with contestants including NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Nicole Eggert of Baywatch and Charles In Charge, comedian Louie Anderson, Drake Bell, who is not the Canadian rapper, Miss Alabama and Brent Musburger favorite Katherine Webb, US Soccer star Brandi Chastain and some guy named Rory. In the part of the show I watched, they never gave Rory's last name, but I'm going to assume that it's not Rory McIlroy since his girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki wasn't there and they never mentioned golf. There were two judges who I can't name and former Olympic gold medalist, Greg Louganis, who served as the role of diving mentor. There are also two hosts of the show, Joey Lawrence and another woman. Again, I didn't see the introduction, so I have no idea who she is. Meanwhile, if you took a poll 15 years ago and asked who would have a bigger career Joey or his Blossom co-star Mayim Bialik, Joey would be the easy winner, right? Now Bialik is getting Emmy nominations for Big Bang Theory, one of the biggest shows on TV and Joey, well, is not.

Without getting too much into the show, this appears to be a three-person competition between the non-rapper Drake, Brandi Chastain and the Rory guy. Apparently, Drake scored a 10 the previous week, but didn't do well this week and had some low scores. He wasn't happy with his performance but he survived for the next week. The Rory guy seems really good at flips. Meanwhile, Brandi dedicated her dive to her grandmother who recently broke her hip. She also credited her family and her teammates but didn't seem to mention Kevin Garnett.

Nicole Eggert and Kareem did okay, but I don't see them challenging for the title. The worst two divers of the week were Katherine Webb and Louie Anderson. Louie Anderson was terrible, but he's also 400 pounds. I'm not trying to be mean about Louie's weight since the show really referenced that he's around 400 pounds. His entire dive was sitting backwards on the platform diving board and flipping himself over. Take a look (the actual dive starts around the 3:00 minute mark.)

(A better version of the video is available on the ABC website.)

Meanwhile, Webb did some type of flip but didn't come close to going into the water straight. The judges decided that more people wanted to see Webb in a swimsuit than Anderson in a wetsuit, so Webb narrowly advanced. As you can see from the video above, she was devastated since she really liked Louie. I think she'll get over it in time for the reunion show.

This show seems to be right up my alley (see Hit Me Baby 1 More Time & Flavor of Love, but I think I'm done after this one episode. I have too many shows on my DVR, and sadly, I just don't have enough time to watch every show on television. With that written, I think I'll follow who gets eliminated each week.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Random Ramblings

- Today is the last day to purchase the Super Early Bird discounted tickets for Celebrate Fairfax. It's only $7 for a ticket to see the Summerland Tour (Everclear/Live/Filter/Sponge), the B-52s or the Spin Doctors.

- Remember my list of the most famous Ithaca College graduates? There are a few more folks to add to the list. Ben Feldman, an Emmy nominee for playing Michael Ginsberg on Mad Men, Jeremy Jordan, a Broadway star who is on this season of Smash, and John Ross Bowie. You may not know JRB, but you know his character Kripke on The Big Band Theory.

- I have a challenge for you: If you're in a car in a metropolitan area, turn your radio to any FM station and hit the scan button. Can you go five minutes without hearing a Kelly Clarkson or Katy Perry song? As an added challenge, can you go two minutes without hearing a Clarkson, Perry, Maroon 5, Rihanna or Taylor Swift song? I think both are impossible unless you're in a tunnel. (These performers plus Bruno Mars, Train, Pink, fun., & Lady Gaga seemingly covers every song on the radio.)

- The Pittsburgh Pirates signed Kurt Yacko. Now they need to sign Wakko and Dot!

- I found out that my 20-year high school reunion is during the same weekend as a work meeting. I guess I'll have to wait for the 25-year reunion.

- Kate of Yinzpiration won the Pittsburgh Bloggers March Madness Bracket Challenge. (I lost the tiebreaker.) Since Kate won, we're writing about her favorite Pittsburgh non-profit, Pulse. I know nothing about Pulse, so read all about the organization from I Heart Pgh's description.

Have a good Friday and weekend!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sean Analyzes Song Lyrics

It’s has been nearly two years since I analyzed lyrics of popular songs. What has kept me from analyzing song lyrics over the past two years? No idea. Anyway, here are lyrics from relatively recent songs.

fun. – We Are Young

We are young
So let's set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun

It doesn’t matter what age you are. Setting the world on fire is not okay. I believe they call that arson.

Alicia Keys – This Girl Is On Fire

This girl is on fire
This girl is on fire
She’s walking on fire
This girl is on fire

This is clearly fun.’s fault!

Taylor Swift – 22

I don't know about you
But I'm feeling 22
Everything will be alright
If you keep me next to you
You don't know about me
But I'll bet you want to
Everything will be alright (alright)
If we just keep dancing like we're

I’ve admitted to liking Taylor Swift songs in the past. I don’t know about this song though. Artists sometimes write songs thinking back to their younger days. Eddie Money’s I Wanna Go Back and Bryan Adams’ Summer of 69 are examples. So with all of her life experiences, Taylor Swift writes a song about her experiences being 22. That’s fine, except that she’s now all of 23. Nice perspective there, Taylor.

Demi Lovato – Heart Attack

Puttin’ my defenses up
'Cause I don’t wanna fall in love
If I ever did that
I think I’d have a heart attack

Demi Lovato – Give Your Heart a Break

So let me give your heart a break
Give your heart a break
Let me give your heart a break
Your heart a break
Oh, yeah yeah

Is Demi Lovato a cardiologist? What’s with all of her songs about hearts? Demi Lovato is to hearts as Sir Mix-A-Lot is to butts.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Last Trivia Tuesday?

Trivia Tuesday hasn't gone very well lately. Nichole seems to be the only person still answering questions. Therefore, let's see how this week goes. For better or worse, I think this is a difficult version of Trivia Tuesday. Your challenge is to answer the questions from the picture below.

As always, please leave your answers in the comments section below and do not use the internet for assistance. Good luck!

This quiz is courtesy of Pub Stumpers.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Links, Links & Links (2200)

Welcome to the 2200th post here at Sean's Ramblings. Not too shabby from my humble beginnings to where I am now (which is basically the same place).

Great profile of Andrew McCutchen. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]

Read this article from my friend Rabbi Rachel Kobrin about gay marriage. Completely unrelated to this article, she is probably the only Rabbi I know that used to regularly watch The Ricki Lake Show. [Huffington Post]

Although I don't have the time, resources or access, I would love for Sean's Ramblings to be like the DC Sports Bog someday. Here are several recent highly entertaining posts:

- President Taft's great-grandson with the Washington Nationals Racing Taft. Your move Lincoln descendants. [DC Sports Bog]
- This guy won't shave until one of the four major DC sports teams wins a championship. [DC Sports Bog]
- An interview with Verne Lundquist & Bill Raftery. [DC Sports Bog]
- Racing President Teddy helps a guy propose at a Nats game. [You guessed it: DC Sports Bog]

I love this picture from Deadspin.

Congrats to Mr. Brame on getting published. [Mr. Brame's Blog]

I never get tired of Mister Rogers stories. [Uproxx via That's Church]

Uncovering myths from a police officer [Ngewo's World]

Finally, in memory of Roger Ebert, I really enjoyed him and Gene Siskel walking around a New Jersey neighborhood on Letterman.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Louisville's Final Four Run (Express Fail)

Louisville has had a tough road to the Final Four. Not only did they lose Kevin Ware to a horrific injury (I may write about this more next week), but according to Express, Louisville has had an unprecedented schedule as a #1 seed.

For the first time in NCAA Tournament history, a #1 seed played a #13 seed in the first second round of the tournament (instead of a #16 seed) and faced another #1 seed in the Sweet 16 round. I’m amazed that more college basketball analysts didn’t make a big deal about two #1 seeds meeting in the Sweet 16 round.

As always, please click here for all of your Express Fail needs.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Interview With Neal Coolong of Behind The Steel Curtain

When I announced that there would not be a Best Pittsburgh Sports Blog Tournament this year, I wrote that I wanted to interview my favorite former and current Pittsburgh bloggers. Last week, I shared my interview with Cotter of One For The Other Thumb. Today, I'm proud to present my interview with Neal Coolong of the amazing Pittsburgh Steelers blog, Behind The Steel Curtain. Enjoy!

I believe that Behind The Steel Curtain precedes you. When and how did you start writing at BTSC?

Sort of a long, dumb story, but I got out of the newspaper business around 2005, but never lost the love of writing. Looking back on it, I think my real passion was reporting, which is why I think Behind The Steel Curtain has more of a news feel, but you don't really get much (read: no) access writing for a blog. I caught on with Steelers Fever, but it was more of a message board, which I didn't like. It didn't have that instant publishing ability I really wanted.

I moved to Philadelphia in 2007 for a job within the company I worked for in Minneapolis, and I couldn't get out of my lease, so I was paying rent in two places, and had maybe $100 to spare each month. Not that it was much of a change, but I basically spent my free time watching TV and movies, and wanted to do more writing. I got hooked up with a blog network that has since been shut down, along with it, a site called Die Hard Steel. I had no experience writing something that would be published immediately and without any kind of editorial oversight, and I absolutely loved it. I found myself writing four or five posts a day, and the reaction was pretty good. Steel City Insider publisher Jim Wexell reached out to me that summer, and I eventually would write a weekly match-ups column for him - something I still do.

For reasons that still haven't been explained to me to this day, the network's owner shut it down after the 2007 season (that asshole still owes me money too). I tried starting my own blog in 2008, but I didn't have the SEO knowledge or the design ability to make it look the way I wanted, or marketable at all, so I scrapped that idea. I had since moved back to Minneapolis for another job with the same company, and sort of a crisis situation with the job put me in Columbus, Ohio, for five weeks. I only had my work laptop as I lived in a Marriott Courtyard with a tube TV and basic cable.

I was pretty much going insane.

On a whim, I had come across a Request For Writers post on Behind The Steel Curtain from Founder Michael Bean. I responded, thinking "why the hell not?" Bean got back to me, said he remembered Die Hard Steel and brought me on board.

I wrote for the rest of the glorious season of 2008, and I've been there ever since.

Bean eventually was hired by the parent company of BTSC, SB Nation and Vox Media, as a network manager and video producer, so they gave me the editor job around February of 2012. I inherited a great staff and a great following, and I'm proud to say my main job is maintaining the most widely read Steelers site on the internet, and a phenomenally talented staff of writers. We produce lots of fresh and original content for a knowledgeable community with a sense of history.

How did you become a Steelers fan?

My family is all from Pittsburgh. I lived there as a young kid, but my parents were born and raised there. My mom's from Crafton (grew up down the street from Bill Cowher, and family rumor is my uncle, who's a few years older than Cowher, wouldn't let him play in the neighborhood pick-up football games because he was too small. Cowher also mowed my great aunt's lawn). My dad's from the North Side, and was coached by Dan Rooney in pee-wee football.

My dad's work transferred him to Texas and eventually Minnesota, where I spent my formative years. I started becoming "football aware" probably around 11 or 12, but my house was pretty baseball-oriented. I played a lot more baseball growing up than football, and the NFL was at a point where you really only could see teams outside your market on either Sunday Night or Monday Night football. The Steelers weren't all that great back then, so it was only a few times a year they'd be on nationally. It was a big deal in our house when they were, though, and I remember getting to stay up late to watch them.

My mom tells stories about how entrenched I'd get in watching a football game when I was an infant; the same thing my wife rips on me for a few decades later. But it wasn't until the creation of DirecTV and NFL Sunday Ticket around the early 90s that I really got into Steelers football. I followed the team in the newspapers and on ESPN, but I was more of a fan of individual players than teams. I loved "The Posse" in Washington (Gary Clark, Art Monk and Ricky Sanders), and the K-Gun offense in Buffalo. I really loved Lawrence Taylor and Bo Jackson in Tecmo Bowl, John Elway in Denver and of course, the Great Jerry Rice.

But I never really subscribed to a defense until we found a Steelers bar in St. Paul and aired every Steelers game.

EVERY Steelers game. I no longer had to wait for a primetime game. My naive affinity for offensive players shrunk hugely when I learned about Blitzburgh and saw Bill Cowher screaming at officials and cramming pictures confirming there was 11 men on the field into the pockets of officials. I saw Greg Lloyd and was absolutely terrified, but I soon learned the awesome feeling every die-hard fan has; he makes the bad guys scared. He's on MY team. Kevin Greene came in with his rock 'n roll hair outward personality, and Levon Kirkland who looked far too big to be as fast as he was.

I died a little when Dennis Gibson knocked that pass down. I died more when my name was forever ruined because of that moron O'Donnell. Then there was Bettis, Slash, Yancey Thigpen and the same swarming defense undone by Elway's 90 mph fastball that caught Shannon Sharpe on third and long.

For Steelers fans of my generation, we dealt only with heartbreak caused from multiple instances of being on the wrong end of playoff upsets.

None was worse than 2001, though. That loss to New England would probably be at the top of my all-time worst list. I still get a pang of sickness when I see replays of that. We saw lots of winning years after that, and I think of those years when we lose a bit like we are now, but more than anything, I'd say my fandom was forced in painful defeats, only to achieve the one true sign of success in sports.

The fans of every team in the NFL hate us. I love it.

Is it difficult being a fan while watching the game? Specifically, can you enjoy watching the game or are you constantly thinking about blog posts and topics for the day/week based on the game?

Interesting question. Haven't really thought of it that way, but to be honest, it's probably more like the other way around now - the writing comes first, fandom comes second. I probably have to take pause at least a few times each game to try to enjoy it. I'm constantly texting with my brother or emailing writers about different things to prepare for an article. In a perfect world, I'm watching the game as a fan; it feels almost like a reward for a long week of analysis of the previous game and previewing the coming game. It's nice to just let things happen and react instead of trying to produce content. But it's really hard to turn the reporter off, even if I haven't purely reported in close to a decade now.

Truth be told, though, the postgame analysis stuff is never really hard. There's always a bunch of storylines, and BTSC has such a great community, there are hundreds of comments on my postgame article (which I don't think anyone ever reads) and oftentimes you can pull story ideas from that.

Top to bottom, fan or reporter, the thing I've loved all these years about football is the fact there is so much that happens over 60 minutes of game time. Even people who dedicate 14 hours a day to watching one team can't fully tell everything. Much of this stuff writes itself if you know what to look for. I really enjoy the challenge of flipping between analyst and fan, though, and BTSC has always focused on hitting both of those markets. The things I set up with our analysis writers require a different interpretation of things than what I set up with my feature writers.

Long rant short, I guess the answer is I really can't be one and not the other anymore. Even when the Steelers aren't playing, and I watch Vikings games with my buddies, I'm analyzing Christian Ponder, but am shrieking like a little kid when Adrian Peterson gets to the second level. There's a balance, and I haven't perfected it, but I know each day I learn something new about this game, and that's always been the motivating factor behind what I do.

How you ever received any feedback on BTSC from the Steelers organization or any individual player?

Both on and off the record, yes. Most recently, I made some critical comments about OG Doug Legursky after the team's loss to Denver last year (I think it was Denver, maybe Tennessee?). He wasn't exactly pleased by those comments. He said I was stupid, which, of course, I am. I offered him an interview to clear the air. He declined, which is unfortunate. I have thick skin and by no means do I feel I'm an expert. I'm not patting myself on the back at all, because that exposure to the game has only taught me that I don't know anything about it. I'm always eager to learn and I would have loved to have heard why Mr. Legursky felt his performance in either of those games wasn't below standard as I felt it was.

There have been others, but I promised confidentiality. Some feedback has been good, but as any writer knows, they're always going to be ripped by those who are playing or coaching. And perhaps fairly so. If I rip them, I promise a full opportunity to air their side and rip me if they so choose. Readers deserve that. I don't want to hide behind the curtain, so to speak.

A few of them pointed out a few glaring misses I made. Again, more learning opportunities, and I try to remember (even though I often fail) humility when analyzing an extremely complicated game.

Do you ever get to travel for your work at BTSC or like the rest of us bloggers, are you stuck writing on your basement couch?

I've had opportunities, but to be honest, I've passed on them more times than not. The excitement of attending something live as part of a media source, and having that access is no doubt alluring, and something I would exploit perhaps more often than not if I had offers consistently. But it comes down to a general vision.

As a publication, where are we going? Where are we trying to go? We don't break news, we're not here to compete with the guys who's paychecks depend on getting those scoops. What is having that access going to do? It's good to have here and there for the sake of variety, but in the end, I don't think it gives us more than just a way to have what we hope is our pure, unfiltered opinion distracted by the subject.

A very Bill Simmons-esque mentality, which, ironically, is a good reminder I shouldn't take myself so seriously.

My overall point is the hardest thing for a blogger, or an internet writer, or whatever we're called nowadays, is to remember his/her place. That isn't meant to be negative, but it's safe to say no website-only publication can compete with the Mark Kabolys or the Ed Bouchettes or the Jim Wexells of the local media scene. The space we try to fill is simply in the analysis of the news. Opinion. Discussion. We can control our ability to react quickly and provide insightful analysis of news that breaks, but attempting to be on the front line of that news just doesn't fit. It's not who we are.

One might simply say I don't get paid enough to do that, but that's another argument for another day.

Consistency is the most crucial aspect of success of a writer in our space. You have to see the news, but you have to be committed to writing more than just headlines. Your copy has to be tight and interesting. It's hard enough to write out a high volume of content while focusing on quality without pretending to be Adam Schefter looking to "break" news about practice squad signings. One might argue your quality suffers if you don't focus on it, and none of us are credible enough to not focus on quality.

And I write on a chair in my living room, I'll have you know. Sometimes, I move onto the deck. The basement days are long gone, my friend. I've obviously moved up!

The time between the draft and start of training camp is probably the slowest of the year for you. Is it difficult to write during this time? Do you find that you'd like to write about some non-football topics (ex. Pittsburgh Pirates or some random TV show) during this time instead of having to write about football and the Steelers?

That stretch of time, maybe about two weeks after the draft until minicamp, then right after minicamps to training camp, yeah, there's usually nothing to write about. The front office and beat writers take vacations, players are nowhere to be found, and if anything, the news that breaks on the team isn't going to be good.

I think the idea surrounding "writing about football" can be fairly loosely interpreted, too. Last year, we did a running feature drafting an all-time 7-on-7 flag football team of Steelers players. Me and two other writers drafted teams of 10 based on the common rules of flag football.

There was no particular reason to run it, it had absolutely no news value and the picks themselves were even a little suspect, but we had fun doing it, the community interacted and we fit our basic goal of providing interesting insight with a sense of history.

Not gonna lie, there are plenty of times I feel like writing about something non-Steelers-related would be a nice change of pace, but those times are the most important to stay on task. Again, it's just about using some creativity and coming up with something fun. It's easy to sit back and make lists about everything, and it's even easier to continue to try to force "it could happen" news stories on your readers like some other sites do. We just try to find a middle ground between those two things, and take some creative chances with topics.

We have a very talented writing staff, and we brainstorm feature ideas frequently. We're not trying to pander to the audience and just run stuff because we can, but we're looking to get outside the box and try to showcase that talent in a broader spectrum of the team. We did a feature last year (I think it was last year) on the Pirates earning their place back into the Pittsburgh sports community. We based it around attending games in each stadium/venue, and how vastly different, yet very similar, those experiences are. It made for a good read, and while it's not directly associated with Steelers news, I think any site that's worth the time of an intelligent fan needs to focus on those kinds of stories. We don't want to be a site where our content is formulated solely from what's on Twitter, we want to actually create a compelling product.

Thanks to Neal for taking the time to provide really thorough responses to my questions. Make sure to read Behind The Steel Curtain daily, if not multiple times per day. You can also follow BTSC and Neal himself on Twitter.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Seven Days Or Eight Days of Passover

Passover is over for another year, and I’m happy eating pizza, cereal and pretzels again. While Passover ended for me after 8 days on Tuesday night, many people finished Passover on Monday night after only 7 days. Why the difference? The St. Louis Jewish Light has the answer.

The differing practices go back more than 2,000 years to Jerusalem, when the dates for Jewish festivals in the coming month were declared by the rabbis of the Sanhedrin, the community's legal body, according to when they sighted the new moon.

As it took time for messengers to reach Diaspora communities with that report, a "yom tov sheni, " or "second festival day," was added to biblical festivals outside Israel to ensure that Jews there observed at least part of each festival on the correct day.

The extra Diaspora day was preserved even after the institution of a fixed calendar, with the Talmud declaring that Sukkot and Passover be observed for eight days, Shavuot and Rosh Hashanah for two.

Yom Kippur was not extended because of the burden of fasting, and Rosh Hashanah is celebrated for two days even within Israel because it falls on the new moon instead of mid-month like the other festivals.

I get it. 2,000 years ago, not everyone had their Outlook calendars set to coordinate the dates for Jewish holidays including the beginning of Passover. However, it is now 2013. People inside and outside of Israel know when holidays begin. Why do we still have the extra day of Passover and eating awful food simply for not living in Israel? Is this some type of conspiracy led by the Manischewitz company?

Here’s my idea. If we need to have an extra day of Passover for living in the US (and really, can't we just stick with seven days everywhere?), why can’t we have an extra day for the more fun holidays like Purim and Hanukkah outside of Israel? I look forward to hearing from the Rabbinical community on this.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Spring 2013 Pittsburgh Guest Blogger Event

Today's post comes from Ya Jagoff! ,and is part of a special day of shenanigans from other Pittsburgh Bloggers. Enjoy (and make sure to read all the way to the bottom to see where you can find my guest post)!

Hello to all the Sean fans!!! Happy April Fool’s Day!

For those of you that know Pittsburgh, you may be familiar with the term “Jagoff” which is a word that can be somewhat confusing to non-Burghers.

1) It’s not a swear word
2) It can be used to express your ultimate affection for someone.. “I love you, Ya Jagoff!”
3) I can be used to express shock, “You scared the CRAP outta me Ya Jagoff!”
4) It can also be used, as I used it on my blog, to call out anyone that is embarrassing the rest of us Pittsburghers, doing something stupid or attacking those of us that live in Pittsburgh, i.e. “Learn how to drive, Ya Jagoff!” or “Hey Rogeeee Goodell, just because the letters G, O and D are in your name, you are not GOD, Ya Jagoff!”

Today’s example...people that leave the Penguin’s games early.

The Pens have become so popular and prices to the good tickets have become so high that, it has become a “status symbol” to own hockey tickets. Similar to driving a Double-crew-cab, full-time 4 x 4, double hemi-something-or-other-all-decked-out-with-chrome-and-running-boards monster-sized, pick-up truck at current gasoline prices!

The point, hockey die-hards find it hard to get to games and, when they D, they are soooooooooooo glad to be there that they stay, not only until the end of the game, but almost until the crews come by with the brooms to clean up all the food left under the seats. (As a side note, do people eat like that at home or are they just sloppy eaters at arenas and stadiums?)

So I’m at a game, that’s close in score, closely played, late in the third period and……people like the people in front of us that vacated the seats in the above photo, made the choice that BEATING TRAFFIC was a priority.

Traffic? Junior has to get up early for school? Gotta pee before I head out for that long ride home?

All those beat watching the end of this game?? Can’t understand this at all!!

So, to those Early Exiters and Exit-trixes that are all decked out in their expensive Pens gear vs. the die-hard fans sitting there in their Barrasso and Pronovost shirts, here are my thoughts...

If I paid $200/ticket OR was GIVEN a $200/ticket to see a Pens game, we wouldn’t give two @#%#s about traffic or getting home to get my make-up or those uncomfortable dress shoes off. I’m a real hockey fan and I’d still be clutching to the seats as the janitorial staff were trying to clean up the spilled popcorn 3-hours AFTER the game ended.

To those of you that use your hockey tickets as a status symbol, pa-leeeeeze stay home the next time so that, as the final minutes of the hockey game wind down, I don’t have to watch you gather your things, hug, kiss, look around the section to waive goodbye to your friends and BLOCK MY VIEW of the game, Ya Jagoffs!

Thanks again to Sean for letting me post on his blog!!!

I hoped that you enjoyed this special April Fool's Day post. You can see my post over on Love The Burgh, where I share my favorite, definitely non-trendy, Pittsburgh restaurants.

You can also find more special guest blog posts by checking out #PghGBE on Twitter.